We congratulate Dr. Ralina Joseph, 2022 recipient of the Marsha L. Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award! Each year, The Graduate School, with assistance from the President’s Office, sponsors this award honoring outstanding mentoring of graduate students by faculty. Students and faculty across campus can agree that Dr. Joseph embodies the qualities of an outstanding mentor. Dr. Joseph is Professor of Communication, Director of the Center for Communication, Difference, and Equity, and adjunct Professor of American Ethnic Studies and Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies. Dr. Joseph also serves as Associate Dean of Equity and Justice in Graduate Programs for the Graduate School.
Dr. Joseph’s contribution to the Communication Department and her graduate mentees has been nothing short of remarkable. Professor and Chair of the Communication Department, Christine Harold, shared just how influential Joseph’s mentorship work is, “I have worked with Dr. Joseph for fourteen years, and in my view, her mentorship of graduate students is the most outstanding of her many formidable contributions to the Department, the UW, and the discipline at large,” she said, adding “we are all undoubtedly stronger for her leadership.” Madhavi Murty, Assistant Professor at UC Santa Cruz and UW Communication PhD shared that Dr. Joseph “was and remains” her “intellectual mentor and anchor.”
Meshell Sturgis, Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Communication, first met Dr. Joseph while working towards her Master’s degree at UW Bothell. “Before I was ever her advisee, Dr. Joseph modeled immaculate teaching in the classroom, she assuaged my feelings of the imposter syndrome through her Mentor Memo with the Graduate School, and demonstrated how excellent mentorship entails explaining the host of acronyms, coded expectations, and unspoken politics often beguiling to new graduate students, especially a first-generation queer woman of color like myself,” Sturgis said. Sturgis added, “she brought me into the Department of Communication through encouraging me to apply to the doctoral program, securing me the GSEE Presidential Dissertation Fellowship, and immediately set a much-welcomed routine of regularly meeting with her and a community of scholars in the Center for Communication, Difference and Equity as part of the Department of Communication.” Dr. Joseph’s support for students is comprehensive and comes in many forms.
Through the CCDE, Dr. Joseph provides a safe space for BIPOC graduate students to connect, strategize, and network as they develop their teaching and research skills. After actively recruiting BIPOC students for the Department’s graduate program, Dr. Joseph integrates students into the Center where they connect over larger research projects, participate in an annual conference, teach as instructors of record, and meet to discuss issues of equity and social justice. “Of particular value to students of color, Dr. Joseph, in essence, creates an intellectual and scholarly ‘home’ for her students,” said Harold. Harold is not the only one who noted Dr. Joseph’s keen ability to foster a safe and supportive environment for students. Communication graduate student Laura Irwin adds that “Joseph has cultivated an advising ‘family’ for her advisees. When she recruits students, she ensures we have a network of support available to us by introducing us to current scholars in the field and by encouraging us to lean on one another as colleagues and scholars. Considering how far and few between Black and other students of color are in higher education or have graduate degrees, Dr. Joseph has made considerable efforts to carve a space for us and advocate for us through her research and mentorship.”
Dr. Joseph not only guides students to great success, but also provides extensive support to students facing hard times. Dr. Manoucheka Celeste, a former advisee who is now an Associate Professor at the University of Florida shares that “after two troubling quarters at the UW, I was prepared to leave for another place to continue my graduate education. It was Dr. Joseph who convinced me to stay. It was her support, advocacy, leadership, and example that facilitated my moving through the program. Her professional trajectory provided a model, one that allowed me to develop my own scholarship, leadership, and pedagogy.” Celeste says that Dr. Joseph was her first call when she received the news of her tenure.
Dr. Joseph’s commitment to mentorship has been far reaching. “We would be hard pressed to find a graduate student at UW that Dr. Joseph hasn’t mentored or impacted in some way during their academic careers, particularly marginalized students,” said Jenn McClearen, Assistant Professor of Sports, Meda, and Culture in the Department of Radio-Television-Film at the University of Texas at Austin and UW Communication PhD. Dr. Joseph’s advocacy for BIPOC has created a long-lasting impact in her students’ lives. “When I graduated I asked Ralina ‘how am I ever going to repay you?’” McClearen recalls, “she replied simply, ‘pass it on’. Those words became a mantra that I strive to live up to every day. Pass it on.”
In sharing what this award means to her, Dr. Joseph said, “the Landolt Distinguished Graduate Mentor Award is the most meaningful award that I’ve ever received. Mentoring is the very best part of my job. It’s where I have the privilege to learn from and with my brilliant students. I aim to foster a reciprocal, creative space where my students and I can work to shift the systems of power to not only ensure that more minoritized folks make their way into the academy, but that we can, together, create a different academy.”
The Communication Department would not be what it is today without the influence of Dr. Ralina Joseph. We thank her for her outstanding commitment to her graduate students and congratulate her on this great honor.